'Jurassic World Dominion' review: A dino-snore of an adventure

Original castmembers bring this 'Jurassic Park' entry back to the beginning, except for the part about it being a good movie.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

If disappointment can be measured in dinosaurs, "Jurassic World Dominion" is a brontosaurus of a bummer. 

Not that expectations were riding high for the "Jurassic Park" franchise's sixth film, the concluding chapter in the "Jurassic World" trilogy, which kicked off back in 2015. But despite nearly wall-to-wall dino mayhem, there's simply no life to the ancient creatures, let alone the human cast tasked with outrunning, outwitting and outlasting them. Surely dinosaurs didn't come back from extinction for this.  

Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Isabella Sermon and DeWanda Wise in "Jurassic World Dominion."

"Dominion," which follows 2018's "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," picks up with Chris Pratt's Owen Grady and Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire Dearing, who are living in the woods and raising a human clone (Isabella Sermon's Maisie Lockwood) as their daughter. There are also dinosaurs loose in them there woods — including Blue, the velociraptor that series producers keep thinking audiences have an emotional attachment to — but Owen is able to tame them, or at least keep them at bay, with a few simple hand gestures, thanks to his days training raptors for the Navy. Call him the dino whisperer. 

It turns out baddies from evil tech firm Biosyn (get it, Bio-Sin?) are after Maisie for the properties in her genomes, and eventually nab her and bring her back to their labs. Meanwhile, OG "Jurassic Park" characters Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) — both are given curiously flat introductions; even Neve Campbell got a warmer welcome when she returned in this year's "Scream" — are headed to Biosyn's headquarters to meet up with Jeff Goldblum's Dr. Ian Malcolm, because Goldblum makes everything at least 5% better by default. Their reunion is short-lived, and Goldblum soon disappears from the screen for a significant chunk of time. (You'll wish you were with him, wherever he is.)

"Dominion" is driven by a storyline about a plague of genetically engineered locusts invading America's plains, the biblical implications a fitting metaphor for the state of this franchise. But it's really about dinos chasing down humans by air, land and sea, and "Jurassic World" director Colin Trevorrow (whose "The Book of Henry" is perhaps the century's biggest big-screen head scratcher) takes the opportunity to recreate wholesale moments from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "The Bourne Ultimatum," as well as the original "Jurassic Park." He also introduces viewers to the thriving (and thoroughly ludicrous) "underground dinosaur trade" in a bit that looks a lot like the cantina scene from "Star Wars."

Chris Pratt in "Jurassic World Dominion."

There's no rhythm or momentum to the action, or any level of attachment to the characters (newbies include Mamoudou Athie as a Biosyn flak and DeWanda Wise as an ex-Air Force pilot) that would make you care if any of them get chewed up like a wad of meat by the latest and greatest dinosaurs computers have to offer. (These humans, by the way, always seem to be one or two steps ahead of the dinosaurs, no matter how big or fast they are, so chalk up a win for evolution.) 

It's been nearly 30 years since Steven Spielberg brought dinosaurs back to life on the big screen in the original "Jurassic Park," and their arrival was greeted with a genuine sense of wonder and amazement. Technology has come a long way since, but nothing has quite compared with the majesty of those initial brushes with the giant beasts, and Spielberg's mastery at creating horror movie sequences with the T-Rex and the humans cowering in its footsteps. 

Bryce Dallas Howard in "Jurassic World Dominion."

Subsequent "Jurassic" visits have resulted in bigger and badder dinosaurs, but it's not their size that matters, it's the execution of the script and how they're used, and the audience's emotional investment in the characters. Despite the presence of Dern, Neill and Goldblum — Goldblum does get the best lines, which may just be a function of how he delivers them — there's little done to make you care about them, so in the end, you don't. There are stretches where "Dominion" is an outright slog, despite all the would-be action on screen. 

We are currently in a period of self-reflective renaissance with our franchises: perhaps taking a cue from the "Star Wars" playbook, legacy characters have returned to mix with new ones in recent "Spider-Man" and "Scream" entries, flipping timelines on their ear and cross-pollinating different generations of fans. It's a moneymaking opportunity, sure, but it also speaks to our current need for comfort and nostalgia.

At their best, i.e. the multiple Spideys in "No Way Home," they provide a way to have fun with yesteryear by acknowledging the passage of time and perhaps righting (or at least winking at) wrongs of the past. And then there's "Dominion," where the old characters look like they wonder why they're there. (Neill, especially, seems over it already.) 

There has always been an element to the "Jurassic Park" films of wrestling with questions of ethics, and whether it's right to play God and bring back forms of life that nature has wiped out. In this department, at least, "Jurassic World Dominion" provides some clarity: some things are indeed better left in the past. 



'Jurassic World Dominion'


Rated PG-13: for intense sequences of action, some violence and language

Running time: 147 minutes

In theaters